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Is Raising Meat Goats for You?

Updated on January 26, 2015

Meat Goats are Fun for the Entire Family

Our great grandson, Javen Johnson, loves to help Candy feed the goats.
Our great grandson, Javen Johnson, loves to help Candy feed the goats.
Our grandchildren, Angela and Dean Johnson, enjoyed showing goats at county fair and state fair
Our grandchildren, Angela and Dean Johnson, enjoyed showing goats at county fair and state fair
Ken(center) with (left to right) daughter, Kristine; granddaughter, Angela; and grandsons, Dean and Brandon; setting up a live Nativity Scene at Redeemer Lutheran Church in Mountain Home, Arkansas.
Ken(center) with (left to right) daughter, Kristine; granddaughter, Angela; and grandsons, Dean and Brandon; setting up a live Nativity Scene at Redeemer Lutheran Church in Mountain Home, Arkansas.

Goat Grooming Stand

Weaver Leather Trim Stand with Straight Head Piece
Weaver Leather Trim Stand with Straight Head Piece

Goat grooming stands are handy to use for trimming hoofs and for clipping and grooming goats at shows. This Grooming stand is light enough for anyone to carry and durably constructed to handle long days of trimming and clipping. It is easy to transport and folds completely flat, featuring hinge pins to help keep legs secure when carrying. It measures 24-1/2" W x 48-1/2" x 19" H in the upright position.

 

Clippers for goats

Best Choice Products Sheep Shears Goat Clippers Animal Shave Grooming Farm Pet Supplies Livestock, 320W
Best Choice Products Sheep Shears Goat Clippers Animal Shave Grooming Farm Pet Supplies Livestock, 320W

It is essential to clip goats if you plan to show them.This product comes with everything needed to do this, including a carrying case and lubrication oil. It is 320 Watts. The dimensions are: 13 ¾(L)" x 3 1/8"(W) x 3 ¾"(H.) This product is premium quality. There is no need to clip goats if you are not going to show them.

 

Profits from Meat Goats

Raising meat goats can be profitable. Meat goat prices have been steadily increasing since the mid 1990’s. Since it takes a considerable investment in land, shelters, and fences to raise them, one needs to look at the future outlook for meat goats before getting started.

In the United State, Canada, and Northern Europe most people prefer beef and pork to goat meat, but the rest of the world (60 to 70% of the world’s population) prefers goat meat. The population of the United States is changing. Immigrants are coming from Latin America, Asia, and the Middle East. The demand for goat meat among these ethnic groups has been increasing faster than the goat population. Because of the good market for goat meat among these groups, little effort has been made to promote the nutritional benefits of goat meat. Goat meat is reported by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to be lower in fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol than beef, pork, lamb, chicken, or turkey. It is also higher in protein and iron than any of these meats. It is high in vitamin B12 and has balanced amino acids. Since goats are ruminants, goat meat is a good source of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA,) a fatty acid that prevents and cures cancer and many inflammatory conditions in laboratory animals. Results of clinical studies with CLA in humans are still pending. A growing number of people want to eat healthier foods. Goat meat sales can be expanded by promoting its health and nutritional values.

In the United States we started importing more goat meat than we exported 1993 . Today we import about half the goat meat sold through retail stores and restaurants. Will future imports increase as demand for goat meat increases? Most of our imported goat meat had been coming from New Zealand and Australia where feral goats were rounded up and slaughtered for export. New Zealand has completely eliminated their feral goats. Today most imported goat meat comes from Australia. Australians have greatly reduced the size their feral goat population and they intend to keep it at the current level, which is estimated to be about 2.6 million head, with about 1.0 million head per year harvested for export. The domestic goat population in Australia is about 200,000 head, with little interest among ranchers for increasing that number. By comparison, the domestic goat population in the United States is about 3.1 million head. The supply of goat meat available for import will probably not increase in the near future.

The U.S. meat goat industry has a very bright future. It is the fastest growing segment of U.S. agriculture and will continue growing for some time.

A Large Commercial Herd of Spanish Goats
A Large Commercial Herd of Spanish Goats

Where Can One Learn More about Raising Meat Goats?

If you have no experience with meat goats, you can learn much from producers who are raising them. Visit their farms, and visit with them at shows, seminars, and other meat goat events. There is also good information available on the internet that can be downloaded for free.

ATTRA (the National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service,) is a USDA funded nonprofit organization. They publish and distribute "An Illustrated Guide to Sheep and Goat Production." This publication can be down loaded, free of charge, from their web site at http://www.attra.ncat.org. This guide has useful information on all aspects of raising goats. Their web site also has information on producing certified organic goat products.

Langston University at Langston, Oklahoma, is the world's leading institution for goat research. The best information on raising meat goats, including a new “Meat Goat Production Handbook,” is available through their web site at http://www2.luresext.edu/goats/. They also have a web based training and certification program for meat goat producers.

The most profitable way to raise meat goats is to provide them with good quality pasture.
The most profitable way to raise meat goats is to provide them with good quality pasture.

Getting Started with Meat Goats

Before purchasing any meat goats, one must look at pastures, fences, and shelters available to determine how many goats one can start with. How many goats can be kept per acre? This is a question that can only be answered after trying to raise goats on a given acre of ground. The answer depends on climate, type of soil, the fertility of the soil, the type of vegetation, and the steepness of the ground (steep ground doesn't hold moisture as well as flat ground.) It is best to be under stocked so one doesn't have to purchase much feed. Start with just a few goats, and gradually increase the size of the herd as the pastures are improved. An area of trees and brush, that has recently been cut, will put out a lot of sprouts for a few years utilizing energy stored in the roots. In northern Arkansas sprouts have a short growing season, late spring to early fall. Spouts make good summer pasture for goats, but cool season grasses and legumes are needed to get the goats through late fall, winter, and early spring.

Cool season grasses and legumes provide pasture for goats in late fall, winter, and early spring. This pasture has fescue and white clover
Cool season grasses and legumes provide pasture for goats in late fall, winter, and early spring. This pasture has fescue and white clover

Shelters for Goats

Some commercial meat goat producers in northern Arkansas do not provide shelters for their goats. They let the goats find shelter in cedar thickets or under rock ledges. Goats will do better and require less feed if they have shelter from rain, wind, and snow in winter. Five square feet of floor space per goat is adequate, but ten is better. We prefer to have twenty square feet per doe if they are kidding (giving birth) in a barn in winter, but they can kid outside in April and May in our climate.

The Yellville Summit School district needed to get rid of an old metal building that was in the way of a new addition. We were able to get it moved to our farm at a very reasonable cost.
The Yellville Summit School district needed to get rid of an old metal building that was in the way of a new addition. We were able to get it moved to our farm at a very reasonable cost.
We painted it and added an inexpensive lean-to, which can be used for hay or equipment storage.
We painted it and added an inexpensive lean-to, which can be used for hay or equipment storage.
Portable, polyvinyl, calf hutches work well for small groups of goats. The ones pictured above are used for bucks.
Portable, polyvinyl, calf hutches work well for small groups of goats. The ones pictured above are used for bucks.

Arched cattle panels with tarps stretched over them make inexpensive shelters that are quick and easy to erect. A 10 by 12 foot shelter can be built for less than $50.00 (https://www.motesclearcreekfarms.com/asp/articles/Shelter-tarp.asp.)

Building your own Barns or Shelters for Meat Goats

Building Small Barns, Sheds & Shelters
Building Small Barns, Sheds & Shelters

How to build your own outbuildings, including toolsheds, woodsheds, barns, underground root cellars, smokehouses, animal shelters, and fences, with easy-to-follow instructions along with complete information on tools and materials, foundations, floors, framing, sheathing, roofing, wiring, plumbing, adding doors and windows, finishing details, and more.

 

Purchasing a Starter Herd

Decide whether to raise registered breeding stock or commercial meat goats or both. Cattle and sheep producers have been able to achieve hybrid vigor by crossing different breeds. Most of the breeds of meat goats, available in the United States, are composite breeds of very recent origin. Composite breeds are developed by crossing several diverse types of goats. Because these breeds are of recent origin they have very diverse genetics and do not breed true for the most important economic traits. Very little line breeding has been done within any of these breeds. It is doubtful whether any hybrid vigor would result from crossing them. Genetic differences for important economic traits are far greater within these breeds than they are between them. When deciding which breed to purchase, you will do best with the breed that that appeals to you most, but only if you select animals within that breed for the most important traits.

From an economic perspective, the most important traits in meat goats are hardiness, fertility, mothering ability, and resistance to internal parasites (stomach worms.) Unfortunately, these traits are difficult to measure by looking at goats. They cannot be measured in a show ring or a sale ring. Performance testing under pasture conditions might be the answer, but goats, which do well on pastures in the dryer climates of the western regions of the United States, might not do well further east where more humid conditions would cause greater parasite problems.

It is best to purchase goats directly from the breeder who produced them, and to buy them at their farm. Avoid purchasing at livestock sale barns because that is where breeders get rid of their culls and animals that won't breed or produce kids. When buying an animal at a sale barn, one usually has no way of knowing which herd the animal came from or why it is being sold. When purchasing at the farm, one can see how they were raised. Purchase animals that are raised on pasture with little extra feed because that is the most economical way to raise meat goats. It is the only way to raise them if you want to make a profit.

Many producers worm their goats every thirty days. If one worms goats too often, the worms build up a resistance to the worm medication. One is actually breeding superior worms instead of better goats. Look for producers that worm three times a year or less. Many herds of meat goats have lost their their fertility, and their mothering ability. Some producers put their does into embryo transplant programs before they know if they are capable of having offspring naturally. Their kids are raised by foster mothers, usually dairy goats. The growth rates of these kids have no correlation to the milking and mothering abilities of their biological mothers.

 Bucks account for fifty percent of the genetics of their kids. Mature bucks can breed fifty does each year. It pays to invest in good bucks.
Bucks account for fifty percent of the genetics of their kids. Mature bucks can breed fifty does each year. It pays to invest in good bucks.

Selling Meat Goats

After getting started in meat goat production, one needs a way to sell the goats produced. Slaughter goats and cull breeding stock are usually sold at livestock auction sales. Sheep and goats are usually sold together at the same sales because they can be handled, transported, and slaughtered together. Buyers prefer to have both available. Sales that have both get more buyers and get better prices. Sale barns which hold separate, monthly, sheep and goat sales get more goat buyers and better prices then sale barns which sell goats and sheep at their weekly, cattle sales.

The internet can be used to sell breeding stock. People are getting into the habit of using the internet as a source of information and as a place to shop. Many goat breeders have their own websites. Having a website can be inexpensive if you build and maintain it yourself. Craigslist is becoming a popular place to sell breeding stock. Meat goats are also sold by networking with other meat goat producers and those interested in becoming meat goat producers. This is done at events such as shows, seminars, and meat goat association meetings.

Boer meat goats that were purchased on the farm of a producer. The purchase was the result of a contact made at a local meat goat association meeting.
Boer meat goats that were purchased on the farm of a producer. The purchase was the result of a contact made at a local meat goat association meeting.

Selling Goat Meat

Many producers sell goat meat directly to the consumers. To sell meat directly to a consumer the animals must be slaughtered in a USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) inspected plant. Federal inspectors (veterinarians) must be present while animals are being slaughtered and while meat is being processed. The cost of these inspectors is paid by the processing plant. This makes the slaughtering of goats in small USDA inspected plants very expensive (about $2.00 per pound of meat.) Small meat processing plants that are not USDA inspected can process animals for individuals if the meat is not sold after processing. It is legal to sell live animals to customers and deliver those animals to a non-inspected plant for the customers. The customers must pick up the meat and pay for the processing. Many meat goat producers sell goats this way.

There are also markets for certified organic goat meat and grass fed goat meat. These products are being sold to health food stores, restaurants, and directly to consumers. Often they are sold using the internet.

Meat Goats Grazing
Meat Goats Grazing

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